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The genius of Alec Guinness - Madeline Smith

Features | By Madeline Smith

Alec Guinness and Madeline Smith in Alan Bennett’s Habeas Corpus, 1973

Alec Guinness was gossipy, nervous and greedy – and ticked off Madeline Smith for drinking on the job. But he was a genius

I was cuddled up in bed with the new James Bond, Roger Moore, filming Live and Let Die. He whispered in my ear, ‘This job is nothing compared with your next one.’ This next job was in a new play, Alan Bennett’s Habeas Corpus. Starring Sir Alec Guinness, it was an end-of-the-pier, black-humoured pantomime written partly in verse, with plangent fairground musical interludes composed by Carl Davis. Recorded on a Wurlitzer, the music set the tone of the play each night at exactly 8.10pm. That’s when I knew it was time for me to scamper down the concrete stairs to make my first entrance. ...


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